This CD sees the re-release of what is regarded as an all-time classic from the original Doctor Who television series: Fury From the Deep. Prior to its CD outing in February 2004, the story was available on cassette with highlights from the episode soundtracks and poor narration from Tom Baker. What must firstly be commended (as is the case with all such releases) is that the soundtrack itself is excellently preserved and cleaned-up to digital quality. Secondly, the quality of the narration by Fraser Hines allows the listener to clearly hear the soundtrack, and to envisage the unfolding events.
That dealt with, the content itself is now coming under the microscope. I feel that the story is regarded as 'classic' because it is long-missing from the BBC archives and for many fans, the discovery of the original televised material would come as a disapointment due to poor budgeted special effects. However, that aside, the story is atmospheric on audio - the pulsating heartbeat of the weed and its sinister abilities, echo the horror direction that the programme would take in the late seventies, whilst the idea of the base personnel slowly sucumbing to the creature again is made more horrific by the chilling audio.
Quite whether this story really is the 'stuff of nightmares' that some lead us to believe is questionable. For example, the scene with Oak and Quill is comical, even Hines' narration states that - such destroys any terror that we are supposed to feel by their presence. Similarly, the weed is mainly represented by foam - hinting at masses of bubble-bath rather than a mysterious and toxic substance.
However, despite these comments (which come from a modern viewpoint - we must remember that television has changed since 1968,) the story holds up well. Troughton's Doctor is very-much a man of action and he puts 110% effort into his performance. His acting talents are evident even on this audio-only material - witness his exasperation at not being able to solve the mystery of the weed creatures and the touching sadness at having to bid a fond farewell to a trusted companion.
The rest of the cast are fairly supportive - Hines provides support to Troughton's Doctor, and Watlings' 'stereotypical' female companion actually provides the solution to the whole problem. Other base staff such as Robson, the Harrises and Van Lutyens are supportive enough to evoke the immediate sense of danger. Oak and Quill are sketched merely to serve a purpose, and their radiophonic theme-tune, although enhances their humoristic side, is supposed to reinforce the mystery of the weed and the strange activities that have occured at the base for months.
What is pleasing to see is that unlike Daleks, Cybermen or Yeti who appeared in their thousands to destroy the Doctor, the Weed Creatures themselves remain unknown and do not show themselves. Pemberton's script depicts the weed as a creature native to Earth (something rarely done at the time,) and the fact that the Doctor knows little about it increases the sense of urgency. Similarly, the fact that there is so much seaweed in the oceans implies that such events could happen again, without the Doctor's knowledge to save the day - and as the script clearly implies that the weed is intelligent, perhaps what can be infered from the story makes it more terrifiying that what is actually described, a tact not often used in Doctor Who...
As this is one of the BBC's later releases (the idea to release missing stories began in late-1999) the format has settled down and we are now recieving audio CD's of expert quality. Obviously one of Troughton's best stories, it makes you wonder why the BBC ever decided to junk any of them at all - highly recommended.